Chelmsford South Deanery: Towards an Integrated Deanery Vision and Plan for Deployment of Ministry, January 2011
A Deanery Vision Group has been meeting for a year now. They have worked hard, looking at the context of decreased numbers of stipendiary clergy, the tasks delegated to the deanery, the biblical basis for collaborative ministry, and the way various other deaneries and dioceses are facing the present moment. The deanery standing committee have affirmed the convictions of the Vision Group, and sent them out to all PCCs for discussion; at the deanery synod held on 7 October 2010 they were affirmed by an overwhelming majority.
1. A Vision for Every Member
It is clear to us that Chelmsford South deanery is going to lose 2 stipendiary (paid) priests in the next 6 years, leaving a total of 10.5 stipendiaries, and that this “loss” is actually a great opportunity to help us to develop the leaders (lay and ordained) that God desires for us: leaders looking to God for power to equip every member to serve South Chelmsford and to tell of God’s love.
We believe that God gives his people the gifts they need. Our eyes and hearts have particularly been drawn to Ephesians 4; we believe that God will provide the ministry gifts of
- Visionary Leaders,
- Prophets to speak truth to power,
- Evangelists to spread the good news,
- Pastors to care and include all, and
- Teachers to make sure young and old alike develop into the likeness of Christ.
Our synod in spring 2010 showed what a range of gifted individuals we already value within the deanery, including readers, pastoral assistants and evangelists, but also those recognised by our local churches and commissioned to minister under supervision. Our “deanery roadshow” is rolling out across the deanery with the aim of encouraging vocation in the broadest sense possible.
Every member needs to be empowered to live in his or her community, family, social groups and workplace as a full-time Christian, serving his or her community and telling of God’s love.
Every member also needs to be part of an intimate Christian group, whether a formal group or a set of friends. Smaller parish churches already constitute this intimate group.
2. A Vision for Pastoral Communities
Every member also needs to be part of a larger group in which the fullness of the ministry gifts listed above are put into practice. We call this larger group a pastoral community. A pastoral community is a dynamic grouping of smaller communities; it is served by a collaborative team of ministers, paid and voluntary, clergy and lay, licensed and unlicensed, whose focus is to equip every member to serve South Chelmsford and tell of God’s love. Its legal status is not the overriding factor, but its fitness for purpose. It is the effective unit for mission and ministry. A large parish church (no doubt made up of a network of friendships and small groups, formal or informal) might be a pastoral community in its own right; a small parish church would need to join together with other churches to enjoy the fullness of the ministry gifts God gives in a pastoral community.
Every pastoral community should contain at least one stipendiary, but we are relaxed about pastoral units being of different sizes. A one-stipendiary pastoral community would contain approx 180-200 regular members (ie 10% of the deanery total). A two-stipendiary pastoral community would contain approx 360-400 regular members; a three-stipendiary pastoral community would contain approx 540-600 regular members. We are very supportive of pastoral communities working closely with ecumenical partners, and will support the decision of any parish which chooses to look to a neighbouring deanery for its alliances. Between now and 2016, several of the pastoral communities may have more stipendiaries than this section envisages; but the aim is to reduce to this level gradually by 2016. Within the pastoral community, each congregation/parish will need its own “parson”; this person need not necessarily be stipendiary, and indeed may not even be ordained, but will be the public “face” of the church to the locality and the focus of ministry. In a pastoral community, no one church and no one incumbent, be they stipendiary or self-supporting, is preeminent (though presumably a chairperson for pastoral community meetings will be appointed); all incumbents – paid or unpaid – will have the same status and rights.
Obviously, there has to be room for a certain amount of flexibility with all this, especially in the case of parishes with a large population. Special circumstances will be dealt with case by case.
3. A Vision for Sovereign Parishes
However, when it comes to determining the borders of the pastoral communities, we do not believe that the standing committee should be leaning over a map with a ruler, in the manner of the Great Powers partitioning Africa. Pastoral communities are not a replacement for parishes, they are simply a tool to help parishes help each other. We believe that every parish (PCC) needs to make its own decision about which parishes to be grouped with – obviously, all the parishes in a pastoral community would need to be in agreement! We believe that the key judgement to be made is whether a pastoral community is cohesive in its values, though some may also be close in geography.
The next step is for parishes to establish “flat pastoral communities” – in other words,
pastoral communities in which parishes are retained as at present, and agree to cooperate and share ministry as appropriate. No formal reorganisation or change in parish share will be necessary. A “tool-kit” has been sent to each parish, to help them provide a “mini-profile” that will assist in the creation of the pastoral communities. The pastoral communities will be formed early in 2011, and at this point a spreadsheet will be prepared that will supersede previous deanery plans.
No clergyperson can be compelled to follow this proposed scheme – nor would we wish it to be entered into reluctantly. We would ask that deanery clergy freely choose to include responsibilities to the pastoral community in their job descriptions. Where possible, we would hope that Readers and other accredited ministers would work in a flexible way to meet needs, and they will be included in the new deanery plan.
4. A Vision for the Deanery Itself
In the context of God’s desire to shower us with blessing; in the context of full-time Christians, pastoral communities and sovereign parishes; and in the context of God’s love for a world that he calls us to serve and tell of his love, we are clear about the function of the deanery itself. We express it in twenty words:
“We look to God for power
to equip every member
to serve South Chelmsford
and to tell of God’s love.”
We are only too glad for our synods, roadshows and subgroups to be scrutinised with this vision in mind to see if we are living up to God’s call.
 The work done by the diocese of Exeter particularly informed our theological thinking on pastoral communities (called mission communities in Exeter) – see the multiple reports, leaflets and documents about “moving on in mission and ministry” (MOIMM) at www.exeter.anglican.org.
 Exeter diocese identifies the following features of a viable pastoral community:
· regular public worship
· leadership and envisioning
· collaborative ministry
· teaching, preaching, training, nurture, growth, and lifelong learning for Jesus’ disciples of all ages
· evangelism in the community as a clear priority
· involvement in and service to the local community, with a particular care expressed for the poor, after the example of Jesus Christ
· effective pastoral care available to all in the community who need it
· being partners in mission with other groups / churches inside & outside the Diocese
· the provision of appropriate and realistically sustainable buildings
· the necessary administration to support this work
Along with the list of ministry gifts mentioned in section 1 above, these form a useful “check-list” to see if a parish or group of parishes is already working as a viable pastoral community, or whether it needs additional support from other parishes.
 The regular members are the number of people whom you would expect to see in church most weeks; for most churches, this is likely to be 30-40% higher than the average Sunday attendance, though it may vary from congregation to congregation. Please include children.